El Paso, Spain, October 3 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – October 3, 2021): Just a few weeks ago, Ruediger Wastel was living an idyllic life with his wife and baby boy on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma .
That all changed when the island’s Cumbre Vieja volcano began to erupt on September 19.
Wastel, 52, shares photos with AFP of what was once his home, one of the first to be engulfed by the incandescent lava from the volcano.
“I was working in the restaurant when I heard the explosion,” said the German owner.
His restaurant, the Franchipani, is located in El Paso, a town in the west of the island where lava suffocates communities.
“It took me 10 minutes to find my love, who was in the car crying and scared,” he said of his wife, who had rushed to their house – to about 300 meters (yards) from the lava flow – to collect a few goods.
“A member of the city council told me two weeks ago: ‘You have to make up your own mind, you can’t live here anymore,’” he said.
But Wastel has no plans to leave the small island he has inhabited for 16 years.
“This is my land. My son was born here, I met my love here,” he says. “The best part of our lives is here, even though some of it is under the lava.” – “Very hard months” ahead – This part of the island has already suffered from forest fires in August which led to the evacuation of hundreds of people and destroyed houses.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano left at least 870 buildings of all types completely destroyed and caused the evacuation of around 6,000 people.
Abel Armas, 64, told AFP: “Everything I had is gone and I cried a lot.” Stopped at a gas station with his truckload of bananas, one of the island’s two main economic resources along with tourism, he said the lava had buried 40 years of his life.
But he has no intention of leaving.
Like other residents, Armas notes that the three eruptions since 1949 have caused a total of only three deaths – including two from inhaling toxic gases – and that the current eruption, which left no deaths or injuries, is by far the least devastating.
In dozens of places around the world, the risks are “much, much greater, not just for homes, but for people,” argues Manuel Perera, architect and town planning consultant.
Her colleague Elena Pais is responsible for helping the victims accommodated at the Severo Rodriguez sports complex in Los Llanos.
Stacks of clothing are neatly organized by gender, age and size, along with food, kitchen utensils, blankets, sheets, toys and school supplies.
Pais, who has had little rest over the past two weeks, says the worst is yet to come.
“We are going to have very hard months,” she told AFP. “There are those who resist better, but (…) the drama we are living is terrible,” she said.
Social workers, psychologists and volunteers, many of them teenagers, accompany people who need help.
Many who walk through the door of the sports complex are “ashamed” to have to ask for help, says Victor Simon, a 48-year-old volunteer.